Oscar postmortem: a slight improvement

Last year, when I made my picks for the Academy Awards, I managed to get 16 out of 24 correct.  This year … 17 out of 24, the first time I’ve ever cracked 70%.  I got all of the acting awards right, and eight of the ten technical trophies.  I even scored on one upset pick (Logorama over Wallace and Gromit for Animated Short).  So, not bad, right?

But, in my not-exactly-relentless pursuit of perfection, I thought it might be more interesting to look at the seven I whiffed on than the 17 I nailed.  Care to wallow in the details for a bit?

(Oh come on, just nod and agree with me.  I’m not asking for much.)

(That’s better.  Thank you.)

Best Foreign-Language Film

I picked: Das Weisse Band (Germany); The winner: El Secretos de Sus Ojos (Argentina).

Nine times out of ten, the “trendy upset pick” loses.  This was the tenth time.  The theory going around today is that Academy voters were more comfortable with a film that had a Hollywood-type plot (Secretos is basically a political thriller).  Could be.  It could also be that Das Weisse Band is a relentlessly downbeat film – and while depressing movies often do well at Cannes (where Das Weisse Band got top honors), American voters prefer a happy ending.  The happy-ending hypothesis could also have been a factor for …

Best Live Action Short

I picked: Kavi; The winner: The New Tenants.

Remember how I thought Kavi would beat The Door because it wasn’t as depressing?  In the process, I ignored the one comedy on the list – about two guys moving into a new apartment only to encounter a nosy neighbor, a drug dealer, a jealous, weapon-wielding husband and weird rumors of what happened to the previous renter.  If it’s half as surreally goofy as it sounds, it probably deserved to win.

Best Documentary Short

I picked: The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant; The winner: Music by Prudence.

I warned you that this one was a crapshoot; in fact, I was prepared to pick Tears of Sichuan Province and actually typed it in before changing my mind (again). In retrospect, it would probably have been better if one or the other had won, given the slap-fight that ensued after Prudence was announced

Best Cinematography

I picked: The Hurt Locker; The winner: Avatar.

I went with the guild’s choice, the Oscar voters took a different option.  Them’s the breaks.

Best Sound Editing

I picked: Avatar; The winner: The Hurt Locker.

Same situation, only the movies are switched.  One thing I ought to look into is how often the same movie has won both Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (as Hurt Locker did) – it might give me an indicator for the future.

Best Original Screenplay

I picked: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Mispellings); The winner: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker).

This one is totally my screw-up!  Looking back, I realize I ignored two rules for predicting Oscars:

  1. When all else fails, go with the guild winner (Boal won the Writers Guild honor).
  2. Go with the person who’s never won over a previous winner, as Academy voters like to “spread the wealth” (Tarantino won for Pulp Fiction).

This was just a bad job on my part.  If you actually bet money on this one based on my choice, I do apologize.  (Don’t expect me to reimburse any losses, though.  Gambling is just dumb.)

Best Adapted Screenplay

I picked: Jason Reitman / Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air); The winner: Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious),.

And then there’s this one, which pretty much NOBODY saw coming – Reitman and Turner had been the consensus choice since December, and had already won the Golden Globe, Writers Guild, BAFTA (the “British Oscars”), Critic’s Choice, National Board of Review and most of the local critics’ circle awards.  Fletcher had gotten the International Press Association’s Satellite Award (not usually a harbinger of anything) and … that’s it.  The biggest upset of the year, bar none.  Especially when you factor in that Up in the Air, which was considered a Best Picture contender when the Oscar noms were announced, got shut out – 0 for 6 – barely a month later.  I still look forward to seeing it, though, whereas given the source material I don’t know if I’ll ever have the desire to watch Precious.  But that’s just me.

A few other notes: I’m thrilled for Jeff Bridges, possibly the best actor in movies that no one mentions as being among the best actors in movies.  (Him or John Cusack.)  My wife is happy for Sandra Bullock, who I think became the first person to win an Oscar and a Razzie (the anti-Oscar, given for the worst performances of the year) on the same weekend.  (Two Razzies, actually – both for the execrable All About Steve, not The Blind Side.  And she actually showed up at the Golden Raspberry Awards ceremony to receive them!  Gotta like her moxie.)  And it seems like a good time was had by all.  Except, perhaps, for the Music by Prudence bunch.

Well, time to close the curtain for another year.  Maybe next time … 18 of 24?  Why not?  After all, Hollywood is in the dream-making business …

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